"All" by Tree

Tree's profile is growing more rapidly than even his name would suggest.

The 29-year-old Chicago rapper/producer earned a coveted slot at the Pitchfork Music Festival on the strength of his newest mixtape, "Sunday School II: When Church Lets Out," and has been wooed by a number of major labels--though for now he sounds content to remain independent.

"With a record label, maybe they want me to make a King Louie song or a Chief Keef song, and maybe that's not me," said the MC, born Tremaine Johnson. "I choose my own style of music, and that's why you're calling me now. I do my own thing."

By phone, the Englewood resident opened up about the act he's most excited to catch at Pitchfork, why he's not cut out for the ministry and how his latest mixtape stacks up to Kanye West's much-lauded "Yeezus."

Is there anyone you're looking forward to seeing at Pitchfork?

I'm looking forward to seeing R. Kelly. I've seen him in the clubs but never onstage.

Have you ever had any interaction with him?

I mean, I've spoken to him, but, naw, not really. I did try and sample some of his music in the past, but none of it ever came out to my liking. Some samples you can work with, and some you can't.

You grew up attending services at Salem Missionary Baptist Church, and your latest mixtape is called "Sunday School II." Did you ever give any consideration to becoming a minister?

[Laughs] Naw, I'm not that good of a person. Well, it's not that I'm not that good of a person, but I've got some vices. Maybe I can go into the ministry when it's all over and I really have a story to tell. You never know what life will throw your way or the type of person you'll be 30 or 40 years from now, so I wouldn't say never. I do know right from wrong, though, and I do preach it. I do preach it.

Did you learn anything about MCing or stage presence by watching the preacher do his thing every Sunday?

Yeah. Baptist preachers put on a show! They're up there dancing and clapping and screaming.

Obviously, Chicago's rap scene has gotten a lot of attention recently. Do you feel like there is a Chicago sound developing?

Not really. Even my sound isn't a Chicago sound. We're in the middle. It's a jambalaya. It's a combination of everything. Everything but Chicago music has been played in Chicago since the beginning of time. We were raised up on other coasts: New York and L.A. and even the south with Atlanta. We can grow up in the same neighborhood and we'll have three [or] four different styles we rock.

Was there a particular point you really felt like you found your voice as an artist?

I think all those [years] of working and the hundreds of songs I've written and thousands of beats I've made was just me doing what I like. I really don't care for those critics who speak down on my work. I know what good music sounds like. I make good music. For any critic to say there's a better mixtape out there is preposterous. If you go compare my project to whoever else's I have (A) more hits than them, (B) better production than them and (C) I'm telling stories. A lot of people had a lot to say about the Kanye project and how it was art, et cetera, et cetera. I've had a chance to listen to it, and I liked it, but I still say that you won't find a more complete project this year than "Sunday School II."

Clearly, you're supremely confident when it comes to music. Is there anything you really struggle with? Like are you lost in the kitchen?

I'm bad at losing weight, how about that [laughs]? I got a terrible diet and can't seem to shake it.

On "Trynawin" you mention having "different superstitions." What are some of them?